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In , Saint Kitts took controversial steps to scale down involvement in the sugar industry in anticipation of changing global trade rules that threatened this sector. Opposition leaders responded by calling for public protests and demonstrations against the reforms. European colonization of Nevis began in the seventeenth century with the arrival of English and French colonists. Intermittent warfare led to changes in sovereignty, but the Treaty of Paris in awarded both islands to Britain.
In , together with Anguilla, they became a self-governing state in association with Great Britain; Anguilla seceded late that year and remains a British dependency. In , the Financial Action Task Force removed the twin island federation from its list of jurisdictions that were "non-cooperative" in the fight against money laundering and other financial crimes.
Momentum began to gather in mid for Nevis to secede from Saint Kitts, a process that cast a shadow over the twentieth anniversary of independence from Great Britain, which was celebrated on September 19 of that year. Nevis is accorded the constitutional right to secede if two-thirds of the elected legislators in its local assembly approve and two-thirds of Nevisian voters endorse secession in a referendum.
Though a referendum on independence failed the required two-thirds majority, Nevisians continued to feel neglected. No Nevisian is a member of the governing cabinet, and the island is entitled to only 3 of 11 seats in the national legislature.
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There is little support for independence from the region or further afield. However, the issue is still pending without resolution.
Some in the opposition PAM called on workers to take up machetes and march against the sugar industry closure, but sizable severance payments to former sugar laborers succeeded in mollifying many sugar reform opponents. Political Rights and Civil Liberties: Citizens of Saint Kitts and Nevis can change their government democratically.
The elections were generally deemed free and fair. The Saint Kitts and Nevis national government consists of the prime minister, the cabinet, and the unicameral National Assembly. Elected Assembly members-eight from Saint Kitts and three from Nevis-serve five-year terms.
Senators are appointed, and their number may not exceed two-thirds of the elected members-one chosen by the leader of the parliamentary opposition for every two chosen by the prime minister. Nevis also has a local assembly, composed of five elected and three appointed members, and pays for all of its own services except for those involving police and foreign relations. Saint Kitts has no similar body.
The country is a member of the Commonwealth with a governor-general appointed by the Queen of England. In an effort to ensure greater transparency in political party financing, a constitutional amendment was approved requiring the disclosure of all campaign donors whose gifts exceed a certain threshold. However, drug trafficking and money laundering have had a corrupting influence on the political system by undermining the effectiveness of the police force and tainting the judicial process.
Constitutional guarantees of free expression are generally respected. Television on Saint Kitts is government owned, although it is managed by a Trinidadian company, and there are some government restrictions on opposition access to it. Prime Minister Douglas has kept pledges to privatize radio, with the selling off of the government radio station. There are eight radio stations and two daily newspapers on the island.
In addition, each major political party publishes a weekly or fortnightly newspaper. Opposition publications freely criticize the government, and international media are available. There is free access to the internet. The free exercise of religion is constitutionally protected, and academic freedom is generally honored.
The right to organize civic organizations and labor unions is generally respected, as is the right of assembly. The right to strike, while not specified by law, is recognized and generally respected in practice.
St. Kitts and Nevis | Country report | Freedom of the Press | 2006
The judiciary is generally independent, and legal provisions for a fair and speedy trial are generally observed. The highest court is the West Indies Supreme Court in Saint Lucia, which includes a court of appeals and a high court. Under certain circumstances, there is a right of appeal to the Privy Council in London. The national prison is overcrowded, and conditions are abysmal.
The deportation of a number of felons from the United States under the U. Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of has contributed to a feeling of being overwhelmed among local law enforcement agencies. In January, the government enacted new work permits for foreign nationals mandating that their jobs must be advertised to current citizens.
St. Kitts and Nevis | Country report | Freedom in the World | 2006
The move was seen as targeting the influx of Guyanese seeking work in Saint Kitts and Nevis. Violence against women is a problem. The Domestic Violence Act of criminalizes domestic violence and provides penalties for abusers. The Department of Gender Affairs, a part of the Ministry for Social Development, Community, and Gender Affairs, has offered counseling for victims of abuse and conducted training on domestic and gender violence.
There are no laws against sexual harassment. More girls than boys have access to primary and secondary education. Two of seventeen members of parliament are women.